When the Red Sox last August shed more than a quarter of a billion dollars in salary obligations -- thanks to their blockbuster trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers -- they vowed a return to a more "disciplined" approach.
Spending wildly for the top free agents -- like Carl Crawford, one of three stars jettisoned in the deal -- had gotten them nowhere fast, the Red Sox concluded. In the future, they would avoid tying themselves to long, nine-figure salaries and instead focus on their own development system which could foster long-term, sustained success.
Fans, disheartened by the wasted resources and underperforming play of Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and others, nodded in agreement. Yes, they agreed, it was time to get back to basics, to stop looking to the free agent market for a quick fix.
Now, apparently, the honeymoon is over.
In the aftermath of the Toronto Blue Jays' landmark deal with the Florida Marlins two weeks ago, Red Sox fans are getting antsy. The signing of Torii Hunter by the Detroit Tigers generated more angst.
"Why aren't they doing anything?"
It seems not to matter that very few teams are "doing anything." The Texas Rangers, whose quick slide out of first place and subsequent disappearance from the playoffs after one game looked like the Red Sox' 2011 fold at warp speed, are in danger of losing both Mike Napoli and Josh Hamilton and they haven't done anything. Neither have the Los Angeles Angels, who lost two starting pitchers -- Ervin Santana in trade, Dan Haren to free agency. Other than lose Hunter, that is.
It's not even December and already people seem overly anxious about what the Red Sox are going to look like in April.
This has some to call for the Sox to make a bold move, any bold move. One problem: "Don't just stand there -- do something!" doesn't qualify as as a sound business philosophy. Instead, it reeks of panic, and, let's face it, ignorance.
Sure, the Red Sox have the resources to go out and land Hamilton, a fine player who was the A.L. MVP in 2010 and finished in the top seven in voting two other times in the last five years.
But if there were ever a player who personified the risks inherent in granting mega-contracts, it would be Hamilton. Beyond the very obvious red flag of his documented drug and alcohol addictions, Hamilton has had difficulty staying on the field. In six full seasons, he's played more than 133 games twice.
Given his past personal history, how likely is it that Hamilton is going to become more durable as he enters his age-32 season?
Factor in Hamilton's declining defensive skills and his alarmingly escalating strikeout rate, and it's easy to see Hamilton as a disaster in the making in Boston.
Would he goose ticket sales and get people talking about the Red Sox? You bet. And would the Sox begin experiencing buyer's remorse in another two years or so? Good chance.
Even the moves that have been made -- signing David Ross and Jonny Gomes - have been met with derision. Twitter was full of hostile sarcasm ("Get the Duck Boats ready!") in the wake of those two additions.
Ross and Gomes weren't supposed to be franchise-altering acquisitions, carried out to make them World Series favorites. Rather, they were depth moves, designed to give the Red Sox options in the outfield and behind the plate.
For a lesson on how critical these lower-profile signings can be, recall that some of Theo Epstein's best moves in building the 2004 championship team came in 2003, when he signed the likes of Kevin Millar, Bill Mueller, and David Ortiz.
The fact is, it's unlikely the Red Sox are going to make one of those big bold strokes this winter. The two biggest free agent names on this winter's market -- Hamilton and starter Zack Greinke -- each have huge negatives attached and any serious interest shown to either by the Sox would be a sure sign that they have already ditched their vow for discipline.
Nor should the Sox be expected to pull off a giant trade. Having decided (for now) to hold onto Jacoby Ellsbury and unwilling to mortgage their future by selling off their best prospects (Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Matt Barnes), the Sox don't have much with which to offer teams.
(That said, as a Red Sox official recently suggested, the deal with the Dodgers, coupled with a 93-loss season may embolden other teams from floating trade proposals that they otherwise wouldn't. Perhaps that explains the talk of Jon Lester for Kansas City Royals' outfielder Wil Myers).
It's only November, remember. And remember, too, that the last time the Red Sox were bold and made big moves was after the 2010 season, when they "won the winter" by signing Crawford and trading for Gonzalez -- two players they couldn't wait to unload less than 20 months later.